Easy Rustic Matzo Ball Soup, Goy Style
January 5, 2012 § 2 Comments
The first time I saw a matzo ball was when I moved to Brooklyn 11 years ago, at age 23. I was intrigued by the pale color and the little pool of broth it rested in, with bitty flecks of carrot and onion. I did not want to eat it. Growing up in Maine I had zero exposure to Jewish food. Not that there isn’t Jewish food served in Maine, it just wasn’t part of my family’s rotation. If you’re eager to get to the recipe you can scroll to the bottom of this post.
A year later, I was in love with a guy whose father’s family was Jewish. He fell ill with a nasty East-Coast head cold and asked for Matzo Ball Soup. I wanted him to feel better, but I was clueless. “My mom makes it, and she’s a goy,” he joked. “You can make it,” He encouraged. (note: Goy = “not Jewish,” or something like that, in Yiddish).
I bought a box of Matzo Ball Mix at the local bodega, and used a combination of instructions on the box, my kitchen experience, and input from “the guy,” to create a simple recipe for the requested soup. My first matzo balls were very dense with a little fluffy outer layer. But they must have been pretty good, because “the guy” eventually asked me to marry him. (I said yes).
A matzo ball is essentially a dumpling. It is a cooked ball of dough, consisting of cracker meal (matzo meal), leavening, egg, and oil. It is light, fluffy, and delicately delicious. I use pre-made store-bought organic chicken stock for this soup. But you can use whatever type of chicken broth or stock you’d like. I give veggies a rough, large dice – or as I like to call it, a 1/4 inch chop.
I don’t shape my matzo balls into actual perfect spheres. I find that the less you touch the dough, the lighter and fluffier the matzo balls are. So I go freeform and live with it. Nobody seems to mind as long as they taste good.
Sometimes I garnish the soup with a little piece of celery leaf, but only if I want to get fancy. When our family has matzo ball soup, it usually is the main course. It is the perfect cold weather, or cold-curing, soup. Honestly, it has ousted chicken noodle as the reigning “make-me-feel-better” soup. I also make it every Hanukah, and serve while the latkes are crisping up. I may be a goy, but I’m learning. Everything about this soup is organic, except for the matzo ball mix. Eventually I may get adventurous enough to make even the mix from scratch, but for now, the packaged mix is great by me (and easy to find in any grocery store).
Easy Rustic Matzo Ball Soup, Goy Style
Matzo ball mix (generally, I use Manischewitz – read “mannish-evitz”)
2 T light olive oil
3 medium carrots (or 2 large), 1/4 inch chop
5 medium stalks celery, 1/4 inch chop
1 medium onion (or 1/2 large), 1/4 inch chop
2 cloves of garlic, smashed
1/2 t whole black peppercorns*
64 oz chicken stock (you can also use broth, or veggie stock)
Follow directions on box of Manischewitz matzo ball mix, making italicized adjustments as follows:
- In small bowl, blend 2 eggs and 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil.
I use wire whisk and beat the eggs frothy, then pour light 2 T light olive oil in.
- Add contents of one packet and stir with fork until evenly mixed.
- Place bowl in refrigerator for 15 minutes.
I suggest refrigerating the mixture, uncovered, for at least 1 hour and up to 2 hours.
Once the batter is in the fridge, I go “off the box.”
In large pot (I use my dutch oven), combine carrots, celery, onions, garlic, peppercorns, and stock. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce to a low simmer for 20 minutes.
Remove cover from pot and turn up to high to return to boil. The process of forming the matzo balls and putting them into the boiling stock must be swiftly done – you do not want the “batter” to get warm. Using a medium to large dinner spoon, scoop a heap of the matzo ball mix up, gently and quickly “form” with your other hand, then drop “balls” into boiling pot. Repeat, making 8-10 uniformly sized matzo balls. Cover quickly and reduce heat to medium low.
Leave soup on medium low (or whatever keeps a steady simmer) for 20 minutes. Stay within earshot of the stovetop so you can turn the heat down if the soup begins to hiss and boil over.
Remove from heat and serve immediately, portioning one or two matzo balls per bowl. Serves 6 – 8 as an appetizer, or 4 as a meal. Leftovers can be kept for up to five days in the fridge in a tightly sealed container. *note: you don’t actually eat the peppercorns, you sort of let them linger in the bowl. They are just for flavor.
This isn’t exactly New York Jewish Deli-Style matzo ball soup, but it is very good and is a great way to diversify your cold-weather repertoire. You can add some roasted chicken if you’d like, or noodles if you want a heavier soup.
Do you like matzo ball soup? What do you typically serve with chicken broth based soups? Have you tried this recipe? Please leave a comment and share.